A tale of two series finales

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By Timothy Guy

By Timothy Guy

We have already had to say goodbye to two sitcoms this year: “Friends” and “Fraiser,” and to make things harder, two popular dramas have closed up shop for good.

First up, “The Practice” which has run on ABC for seven seasons, recently aired its series finale. But by watching the last few episodes of this season it wasn’t saying goodbye to the characters we have come to know and care about, it was saying hello to the characters from next year’s “The Practice” spin off “Boston Legal.”

James Spader and Rhona Mitra joined the cast this year after half of the original cast was fired. For some this was to be the inclusion of new blood into the show, but as the episodes passed it became clear that they were brought in to develop the characters for the spin off.

During the finale entitled “Cheers” there were happy endings for the remaining four characters from previous seasons. Eugene became a judge, Jimmy and Jaime started a new firm and Ellenor took some time off to spend with her daughter.

Would that have been a perfect way to end the Emmy award winning series? Of course it would, but viewers had to sit through the characters from the spin off defending a man accused of fondling handicapped employees.

And of course no series finale is complete without characters crying and the obligatory slow camera pan through the set.

The only saving grace for the finale was the return of Dylan McDermott, who had played the character of Bobby Donnell on the show for all of its previous seasons. His character started “The Practice” so it was only fitting that he closed it.

Plain and simple David E. Kelly, the creator and show runner, messed up. He made exactly the same mistake with another show that was canceled this year, “Boston Public.”

The main storyline for the show last season was budget cuts which were threatening to have some teachers laid off.

During the season finale last year it was explained that the budget crisis was over and none of the teachers would lose their jobs, but lo and behold when the next season rolled around there were two less characters on the show (teachers) and no explanation whatsoever to what happened to them.

How are we expected to care about the show when things like this happen?

Thankfully there are some who know how to do things differently.

Next up is the right way to handle a series finale with the show “Angel” on the WB. Like with “The Practice” the people at “Angel” knew they were going to be canceled and had the chance to film a goodbye episode.

Like with “The Practice” and “Boston Public,” “Angel” lost cast members between last season and this season. But the difference is that both of the character’s absences were explained and their stories were revisited during the season. One character was added to the show, Spike played by James Marsters.

By the time the finale, entitled “Not Fade Away,” came around the show had killed off two major characters, Cordelia and Fred and by the time the finale was over two more were added to the list, Wesley and Lindsey. All of the deaths were meaningful and were not done in a way that made them any less important.

Joss Whedon, the creator and executive producer of “Angel” knew how to make everything count at the end and leave the audience with a sense of finality. Each character, major and minor, had a chance to shine in the last few episodes.

When it came to the end of the episode the audience was left with a parting shot of what “Angel” was all about. The odds are against our heroes and things look bleak, but they continue to fight for what they believe in. The last line spoken by Angel as he sees an army of monsters heading toward the group, sums it up nicely.

“Let’s go to work,” he said.

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